Meanwhile, back at the cabins

It’s hard to believe that we have been here two months.  Time has really flown by!  Being in such a peaceful setting, with very pleasant weather, is good for the soul.  Since school has let out, the 14 cabins have been at 100% occupancy almost every night.  Work has been very busy, but we have managed to get out and do some fun activities.

My particular job duties have changed slightly, as I am now in the office 3 days a week, and 2 days in housekeeping.  These new duties started before I broke a bone in my foot, not as a result of the injury.  The office work is a split shift, from 8am – 12pm, and then back again from 3pm – 7pm.  However, from 12 – 3pm, I still am responsible for answering the telephone,  assisting guests that have locked themselves out of their cabin (seems to happen at least once a week), or guests arriving before the 3pm check-in time.  When the owners, Brad and Joanne, put in the 5 RV sites behind the cabins for the work campers, they also put in telephone lines.  So I have a regular land line telephone  in the RV to answer calls from 12 – 3pm.  Because of the unusual hours, I now get a flat daily rate of pay, instead of an hourly rate.

The office person is also responsible for cleaning the main lodge, daily cleaning of the BBQ grills, assisting housekeeping on busy days, watering flowers, and emptying the quarters from the coin-operated washer and dryers.  The job keeps me busy, and I really enjoy interacting with the guests when they check in, and helping them plan their trips to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

To give an overview about what this work camping job entails, I will refer you to a post that Karen wrote in June of 2014, her first summer here at Luton’s Teton Cabins, in which she went into great detail on the job duties.  click here to read the post.  Needless to say, the cabins are immaculate!  I have cleaned more ovens this summer, than I have in my entire life!

Chuckwagon Dinner

We have a good crew of work campers, and the nine of us all went to the Bar J Chuckwagon dinner and show one night.  Brad and Joanne, upon hearing that we were all going out together, surprised us by paying for everyone’s tickets.  We all had a great time at the Chuckwagon show.  We had been to two chuckwagon’s in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but this one was far and away the best one we have been to. The show and the food were awesome!

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our work camping crew

On the way down to Jackson, we were amused to spot this sign by the road…!

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too late!

Those of you that have been following the blog for a while know that we like to visit craft breweries (always good to support the local businesses!), so we made a trip down to the Snake River Brewery in Jackson on our day off.  It is  Wyoming’s oldest brewery (started in 1994), and they have a not very catchy slogan “our river runs through your liver”.

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cheers!

We did the sampler tasting of their beers, and deemed them to be “okay”.    On the way back “home”, we stopped by Mormon Row in the park to view the structures that still remain from the early settlers to this area.  Location, location, location!

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Quote for the day:  “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Camping at Luton’s Cabins

Two weeks of work have flown by, which is always a good thing!  I must admit, it is nice to be back to work, and our bank account and my Fitbit are happy as well.  For the next four months, we will be working at Luton’s Teton Cabins, located just east of Grand Teton National Park.  This is the view we see every day from work!

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Grand Teton Range

Our job for the summer is cleaning and  maintaining the 14 cabins on the property. There are 3 other couples, and one single that we are working with.  We have a nice group of work campers for the summer.  Now cleaning cabins may not sound like the most glamorous job, but these cabins are so well maintained, that cleaning them is a breeze.  Brad and JoAnn Luton, the owners, have done an excellent job of maintaining these cabins over the years.  They actually built each cabin back in the early 1990’s, and have a tried and true method of keeping them looking brand new.  It’s easy to clean something that is already clean.

With our job, we work as a 4-5 person crew in cleaning each cabin.  There are three levels of service that we do:  Makeup, sheet change and check out.  Everyone rotates through the various jobs on each cabin:  bathroom, vanity, supplies, makeup beds or sheet changes, dusting/oiling, windows, vacuum, floor and final check.  The first two weeks, we have not been at 100% occupancy, which has helped as everyone is still learning the jobs, and what is expected.  By this weekend, we should be full (schools are letting out!), and we will get into a good routine.

We start work at 9:00am, so we need to leave our RV by 8:59am, as we have a 1 minute walk to the time clock!  Although it’s been in the 30’s in the morning, most guests have left for the day, so we can get started on the cabins right away.  Because we have not been at full capacity, we have only been working 4-6 hours each day.  Since this is a very physical job, we are happy to have the shorter days to start with.  But that will change by this weekend!

Here are a few photos of the cabins.

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PERKS

In addition to getting paid for all hours worked (and Wyoming has no state income tax), we have a 50 amp  full hook-up site for free.  There are five sites behind the cabins, strictly for the work campers.  This is our site.

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And the view out the back of the site is very nice as well.  It is a very peaceful, serene place (and it’s all free!)

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view behind our site

Other perks include free use of the on-site laundry room, including the use of the industrial washer/dryer, which is great for super large loads and comforters.  We generally average about $30/month on laundry, so this is a nice little savings.

Since the closest major city with a grocery store, Jackson, is 30 miles away, the Luton’s have also provided a freezer and an extra refrigerator for use by the work campers to store extra food. There are a couple of convenience stores that are within a few miles, but they only carry a limited supply of groceries.

All of the cabins have full kitchens, and many guest will leave food behind when they leave (since many people fly to this area).  All that food gets put into another refrigerator, and we all take turns picking over the leftover items.  So far there has been bacon, ice cream, pizza, butter, cheese, yogurt, bread and more to pick from.  And, some of our guests have left tips as well.  The money goes into a tip jar to be evenly split up among the nine of us throughout the summer.

We were also told we would have free, fast Wi-Fi this summer as well.  We were very surprised at just how fast it has been.  This was a speed test that Dan did the other day.  It was the fastest we have ever registered.

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There are several walking trails on the 100 acre property (Makena will have more to say about them in a future blog).  We have also been into the park a few times, and plan to spend a lot more time exploring the park this summer.  The Tetons, unlike Yellowstone, is a bicycle friendly park, so we plan on exploring by foot and bicycle this summer.

Quote for the day:  “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” – Ann Landers

 

We have arrived at our destination…

…for the summer in the Grand Tetons.  After several months of relaxing, it is time to get back to work!  We are both ready to go for the summer.  Before I get into our summer jobs, I will do a little catching up, since it has been 2 months since I last posted.  Now that we are back to work, I promise to update the blog more.

We left Florida at the end of March, when it had started to get hot and humid, and made a bee-line to Elkhart, Indiana to have some routine maintenance work done on the fifth wheel.  Tiara RV was able to squeeze us in, and we would recommend them for service on fifth wheels and travel trailers if you are ever in the area.

Our next stop was “Camp Meyer” (Dan’s sister and brother-in-laws house).  It’s Makena’s favorite “campground” and once again she was very excited when we let her out of the truck.   We parked there for about 5 weeks, while visiting friends/family and taking care of routine medical/dental visits and truck maintenance.  As usual, there is never enough time to visit with everyone, and we hope to see those we missed this fall.

Several trips were made to Oconto Falls, to visit Dan’s parents.  His dad has made remarkable progress in his recovery from guillain-barré syndrome.  Dan was able to take him out golfing, and Makena convinced the ‘grandparents’ that she needed to walk and play multiple times every day.  Grandparents are such easy targets!  We also played many games of ‘hand and foot’, and provided some iPad ‘tech support’.

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Dan’s parents

We had a few nice visits down in the Milwaukee area with friends and family, in between our appointments.  Our good friends Dave and Angie had us over for an excellent BBQ, and Mike and Karlyn took us out for a fun night on the town. We also had a delicious Cinco de Mayo dinner with college friends Robin and Mary  (forgot to bring the camera).

My brother Brian, and sister-in-law Annette had us over for a visit, and we were able to take advantage of some nice weather to get in a short hike in the Kettle Moraine Forest, along with a climb to the top of the fire tower.

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Brian, Dan and Annette

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We stayed at my sister Margie and brother-in-law Greg’s house for a few days, and had a nice time catching up with them, as they are temporary ’empty nesters’ with my nieces both away at college.  Dan and Greg snuck out for a local beer tasting, and seemed to have a good time!

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Cheers from Greg!

I was also able to get together for my annual “patio beer” with a former co-worker, Amy.

Patio Beers!It’s always nice to catch up with family and friends, but we had only a limited amount of time, before beginning our journey west.  First stop: Des Moines, Iowa.  We were able to attend the Drake University College of Pharmacy Hooding Ceremony.  After 6 years, Jasmine received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, along with about 105 other students in the program.  During the ceremony, her father Gary (Dan’s brother) leaned over towards me and said “We now have a Dr. J in the family!”  I think he’s been waiting 6 years to say that!!  I’m not sure what he was happier about:  the fact Jasmine is now a doctor, or the fact that he no longer has anymore college tuition to pay for, as all three daughters are finished with school!

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Congrats Dr. J

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No More Tuition!

While we were in Des Moines, we were able to meet up with fellow RV’er Linda Clayton for dinner.  She will be workcamping for the summer at a campground in northern Wisconsin.  It was nice to catch up with a fellow Amazonian!  I don’t take selfies, so the picture is not very good!  When Linda and I were both Picking together at Amazon, people insisted we were sisters.imageWe left Iowa and continued West through Nebraska and up into Wyoming towards Grand Teton National Park. We will be spending the summer at Luton’s Teton Cabins in Moran, WY.  I will do a separate post in a week or two on our specific jobs and perks. If you want to see what the cabins look like, or follow along on a live web cam of the Grand Tetons, you can click on the link above.

We found this job courtesy of our friends Karen and Al, whom we will be working with this summer.  We have not been doing too much exploring yet, as I have been battling a bad cold, and the weather has been a bit chilly (27 degrees this morning!).  Today it alternated between sunshine and snow flurries which is typical Spring weather for Wyoming!

Our drive into the Tetons was interesting.  Nothing like a snowstorm in late May!

I did manage to plant some basil, cilantro and a container tomato plant.  They were outside for 2 days, and have been sitting inside the RV the past couple of days.  It should warm up next week, so hopefully they will start perking up a bit with some sunshine.

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My summer garden

The big pot was a gift from our former neighbors, The Kierzek’s.  They have four wonderful kids, and they used their thumb and finger prints to create designs on the pot.  Thanks again Adam, Faith, Josh and Ben!!  (and Kyle and Jolie too!)  Hopefully with all the love that went into the pot, it will help produce some good tomatoes this summer!

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Stay tuned, more frequent blog posts to follow!  And as always, thank you for following along on our adventures!

Quote for the Day:  “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

Amazon – season wrap-up

Happy New Year!!

Our final checks from Amazon have been deposited, so it is time for our final post for the season!  Our 12 week fitness plan turned into 13 weeks, as we worked right up until 5:00pm on December 23rd.  This was the latest we worked for Amazon in our three years.  We really did not mind putting in an additional 30 hours.  Our goal of “fatter wallet, slimmer waist” was definitely accomplished this year at SDF-8 in Jeffersonville, IN.

FATTER WALLET

Amazon pays Camperforce employees $10.75/hour, plus your campsite (including electric) in full.  Our total gross pay this season was $15,771.29 for the two of us, which includes our end of season bonus.  This year, we received $1.00/hour for every regular hour and $1.50/hour for every overtime hour that we worked.  We worked every overtime day that was available, except one.

In addition to the pay, we also received $600.00 in Visa gift cards for working three 59 1/2  weeks.  We ended up with $30 in Vendor Bucks, which we cashed out for quarters for laundry.  This will cover a months worth of laundry for us.

We each earned 5 points from “fast starts”, which we used to obtain $5 Applebees gift cards.  They were awarding weekly points if you made your first pick within one minute of when break ended, and within 10 minutes after start up in the morning and after lunch.

I was able to win a $50 Amazon gift card from a picking contest, and a Kindle FireHD 6 for a weekly perfect attendance drawing.  So overall, the extra perks this year were pretty nice for us.

END OF SEASON PARTY

We were pleasantly surprised when our end of season wrap up meeting turned into a little party.  They had provided us with a catered meal from Qdoba, and raffled off three Kindle Fire HD 6 for our group.  The party was on Tuesday the 22nd, and several people were hoping they would release us after the party.  But we did have to go back to work, and work a full 10 hour day on the 23rd.  The general manager was present, and said they will spend some time in the off-season re-evaluating the Camperforce program in Jeffersonville.  He stated they will not have it next year, but maybe in the future.  We would go back to Jeffersonville if they did offer the program again at their center.

SLIMMER WAIST

This year I used a Fitbit Flex, which is the model that clips on to your waist.  I ended up walking a total of 659.30 miles during the 13 weeks of work, averaging about 11 miles per day.   Some days we would have a good pick path, and “only” walk about 8 miles a day.  Dan lost a total of 11 pounds (and is down over 40 pounds since we first started Amazon three years ago), and I ended up losing 12 1/2 pounds.  The hard part now, is keeping that weight off!

WHAT NEXT?

We are currently in Mims, Florida for the next three months.  Our first 5 days of overtime paid for our site, and the gift cards will pay for our groceries.  We hope to hook up with some friends in the area, and make a couple of trips to Walt Disney World before our Florida resident passes expire at the end of the month.  We are not planning on renewing the passes this year, as we want to visit some other attractions.

Quote for the day:  “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.  You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself.  Make New Mistakes.  Make glorious, amazing mistakes.  Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before.  Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is:  art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do It.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” – Neil Gaiman

 

Amazon – 3 days to go!!!

We received our official notice that Wednesday, December 23rd will be our last day at Amazon. At first we thought we would be done on Tuesday, because they are having a party for us Tuesday afternoon.  But then our Camperforce HR person said she is off Wednesday, and that is why our party is the day before.   As such, we did sign up for voluntary work on Monday, so we will have three 10 hour days this week.  We decided against doing the 11 hour days, since we would not be getting any overtime.  And it is nice to see daylight when we leave work, instead of arriving in the dark, and leaving in the dark.  Makena also likes it because she gets a chance to play football outside while it is still light out!

We are actually happy to go all the way to the 23rd, as this continues our goal of ‘fatter wallet, slimmer waist’!  Tuesday December 22 is the last day for guaranteed 2 day delivery, so we expect Wednesday to be very busy.

MAKING HISTORY…AGAIN

The center has been super busy, continuing to set records this past week.  Once again, we set a new all-time picking record on our shift, picking 387,000 units!  And we had back-to-back days where both first and second shift picked over 700,000 units.  Seems like a lot of people will be getting flannel pajamas, bathrobes, socks and underwear for Christmas!

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MORE PERKS

We continue to earn ‘vendor bucks’ and have received $27.00 so far, which we promptly cashed out in quarters (free laundry!).  I am glad they removed the metal detectors, so I don’t have to empty my pockets!

We have also completed all three 59 1/2 hour weeks, so we have earned a total of $600.00 in Visa gift cards!  It was a long stretch, not sure if we would do that again.

In addition, I was shocked when I heard my name announced as one of the three weekly winners of the perfect attendance drawing.  I received a Kindle Fire HD 6 tablet.  I can’t  tell you anything about it, as I have not had time to do anything with it, other than opening up the box and making sure it was not broken.  That will be a project for January.

LAST YEAR FOR CAMPERFORCE AT SDF-8

In addition to telling us about our party and last day, they also advised they will not have another Camperforce program at SDF-8 in Jeffersonville, IN.  The operations manager has stated we are just too small to make that much of an impact at their center.  After 3 years, they have finally been able to hire and retain enough full-time staff to fill their needs, with supplementing temporary staff during Peak.

He did mention another location that would be a better fit for a Camperforce site, as that location is more rural, and has a hard time getting staff.  We hope they look into pursuing this location, as we would certainly consider applying to that location (since nothing is official, I won’t mention the location).  Several full-time Amazon employees that we talked to were disappointed about the cancelling of the program.  They said ‘every one of you works hard’ and ‘you folks make work fun’ is the common comments that I heard.  So even though we don’t make a significant impact with management, we certainly do with the employees.

Five Camperforce employees will be staying on and converting to full-time Amazon employees after our release.  They will continue to live in their RV’s although Amazon will not be paying for their campsite.  Each has their own reasons for doing so, and we wish them well.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Normally, Amazon pays for your campsite one day after your release day.  But for whatever reason, the arrangement here was month to month, based on your start date.  So our campsite is paid up through 12/27.  Since the weather will be in the 60’s this week (the weather has been great all season), we have decided to take advantage of our free site and stay a few extra days, instead of traveling Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We are tired, and plan on resting up a few days, before our 900 mile trip to warm and sunny Florida.

We hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and safe travels if you will be out visiting friends and family over the holidays!

We will miss seeing our family and friends, but perhaps they can come visit or face time/skype us? (hint, hint)

Quote for the day:  “One week at Amazon, is like a month at any other job.” – Jim, a fellow carpooler and Camperforce employee

 

 

 

Amazon – will it ever end?

We are just beginning week 12, and we still do not have an end date yet.  When you sign up for Amazon Camperforce, you agree to work until 12/23.  That is the last date they will keep you working.  The past 2 years, we were out around the 2oth.  This year, we have been speculating that 12/19 will be our last day, since it is the end of the work week (Wed – Saturday).

The motto for Amazon is “Work Hard.  Have Fun.  Make History.”  We have been doing all three here in Jeffersonville, IN.

WORK HARD 

We are on week three of 59 1/2 hour work weeks, and our bodies are tired.  The mindless walking for 11 hour days does take it’s toll on our minds and bodies.  I can only talk to myself for so long!  Sometimes I start to have strange conversations, and ponder such things as:

– Do all these people buying yoga pants, really do yoga?

– Is Calvin Klein related to Ann Klein?

– When did ‘adult’ coloring books become so popular?

Yes, working 18 of 21 days makes the brain turn to mush.  The body and mind are exhausted.  This year, they have added 5 extra minutes to our afternoon break, which may sound trivial, but we appreciate having 5 more minutes to sit and relax.

On Tuesdays, we pick up our $100 Visa gift cards, so that alleviates some of the pain!  And getting 19 1/2 hours of time and a half pay is also nice!

HAVE FUN 

Amazon tries to keep employee moral high during peak, by providing meals, treats, and incentives.  In addition to the Thanksgiving meal, we have had pizza provided for lunch three times, and had mini banana nut bread loaves as a break treat.

They are also having many contests, although it is a bit more stingy than last year.  Instead of having a lot of smaller prizes, they are offering a $500 Visa gift card every day to one person, for perfect attendance.  In addition, they have a weekly attendance drawing for a Kindle Fire HD 6.  One of our fellow Camperforce won this!

They started offering ‘vendor bucks’ as incentives for picking over 200 items per session.  The bucks are like play money, that is used for the vending machine.  At first we were not excited about winning money for the vending machine, until we discovered we can just hit the change button, and receive 4 quarters back!  We do not have a washer/dryer in our unit, so receiving free quarters is a bonus!  To date, we have received $19 in free quarters!  So Amazon is currently paying for our laundry!

They also have $25 and $50 Amazon gift card drawings as prizes, based on the number of items you have picked.  I was fortunate to win a $50 Amazon gift card from one of the drawings.

MAKE HISTORY 

Our facility has been pretty busy, although compared to last year, it seems like we are slow.  Last year was such a crazy, chaotic time.  This year, management has done a much better job preparing for peak season.  It has gone pretty smooth.  On 12/1, our day shift Picking department set a new record of picking 357,000 units.  They also set a 24 hour record of picking 690,o00 units, and another record of 3,900,000 units in one week.

This week, they are having “crush” week, and they are trying to go over 700,000 units in a day.  We shall see!  Between Black Friday/Cyber Monday, 15% of all Amazon orders world wide were fulfilled by our center.  So we are making history at SDF-8!

ODDS AND ENDS 

We continue to pick a lot of ugly Christmas and ugly Hannakuh sweaters.  Coats, purses, wallets and plush bathrobes are very popular.  Star Wars apparel is also selling like crazy.

We had our ‘last supper’ with our Jeffersonville group tonight.  Having everyone on the same shift has been great!  We have met a lot of wonderful people, and really have been able to spend more time with everyone as a result of carpooling, and working together.

Here are a few pictures from dinner tonight, at Big 4 Burgers in Jeffersonville, IN.

 

 

Hopefully we will find out our end date in a few days.  Once we are done, I will have a wrap-up on our time here at SDF-8.

Quote for the day:  “Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship,  explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it.” – Bill Bradley

Peak Season Is Approaching!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of France.  We simply cannot imagine the fear and horror that their citizens are going through.  Every day that we have, we feel blessed that we are able to do what we are doing.  We never know how much time we have, so enjoy each day.  Always try to remember what is truly important.

AMAZON UPDATE

We have just finished week seven, and are down to “one hand” (5 weeks = 5 fingers)!  Last week, they did not have voluntary overtime available when we finished our week on Saturday.  But by Monday, the orders had picked up, and it was offered. (they have an overtime hotline telephone number that you can call).   Since we had already done 5 weeks in a row of overtime, we decided to rest, and spend more time with our dog Makena (I think she will have something to blog about soon!).  In looking back at last years calendar, we did not have any overtime until November 14, so we are already ahead of last year.

This past week, they announced that Outbound (Pickers, Packers, and Shipping) would not be offered any voluntary overtime, since they wanted everyone to rest up for peak season.   We were a little disappointed, until they announced the return of the $100 gift card incentive!  Last year, they offered an incentive that if you signed up to work 59 1/2 hours, you would receive a $100 VISA gift card. In October, the senior management team stated they might not offer that incentive this year, and said we would probably just work 55 hour weeks (five 11 hour days).

However, orders are already way up over last year in the month of November, so they are again offering this incentive.  It will be for the 3 weeks of December.  We will be able to do this for two weeks, possibly all three depending on our release day.  So we have the opportunity to earn an additional $400 (maybe $600) in addition to all the extra overtime (19 1/2 hours overtime each week, adds up$$).

Starting Black Friday, we will be starting our shift one hour earlier, and going to 11 hour work days (voluntary for the Camperforce, but mandatory for regular and temporary employees).  There are six of us in our carpool, and we all decided to take advantage of all the overtime offered.

Last week they had red and blue frosted sugar cookies for us on Veterans Day.  To all the men and women that have served, and are serving our country, we thank you!!  Especially my brothers Greg and Jerry!!

This week Amazon is providing a catered Thanksgiving meal for all their employees.  We really appreciate this, as we miss out on spending Thanksgiving with our families.  But having a meal with our fellow Camperforce (our current “family”) is something we enjoy.  And speaking of Thanksgiving, I thought we were done picking costumes, but apparently a lot of people will be dressing up as Pilgrims, based on the large number of Pilgrim costumes I have picked this week.

AMAZON PRIME DAY

And finally, you may remember Amazon tried out a new sales event, Prime Day, on July 15.  Many people bashed it when the sale started, stating they did not have enough “good things” on sale.  Amazon has an employee magazine that I was reading, and they had an article on their Prime Day.  As it turned out, it was the single largest sale day ever in the history of Amazon.  34.4 million items were ordered, which equates to a rate of 398 items ordered per second!  As such, Prime Day will return again next year.

In addition to Amazon devices (Fire TV stick, Kindles and Fire Tablet), the following were the top-selling items in each country:

United States:  Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Germany and Australia:  Croc Sandals

Canada:  Huggies Diapers

France:  Monopoly boardgame

Japan:  10 day Green Smoothie Cleanse (yes, really!)

Quote for the day:  “People sure do buy a lot of crap!”  – Mary Lloyd McDonald (who is one of our carpool riders, after her first week of Picking!)

Churchill Downs and week 4 is in the books

Amazon Update

Week four is in the books, another 50 hour week, with voluntary overtime.  This week, they have called mandatory overtime for all shifts, as they are experiencing higher than expected volume for Halloween.  On a typical day, we are both picking 800 – 1000 items per day.  This week, at least 50% of the items were costumes or accessories.

At the beginning of each shift, and after lunch, we have “stand up”, where everyone is required to do stretching, and the managers will update us on the volume of the orders.  This week our manager stated 80% of all apparel that is ordered from Amazon is shipped out of our Fulfillment Center.  It is no wonder that this place is bursting at the seams with apparel everywhere.

Superman and Batman are running neck and neck in popularity this year, and Spiderman….what happened to you?  I have not picked many Spiderman costumes.  Anna is beating out Elsa,  for top honors with the Disney Frozen costumes. Star Wars and Star Trek are very hot this year.  And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to be very popular as well.

Time is going fast for us, which is surprising.  I remember our first year, it seemed to take a long time until our fourth week.  Personally, I think you need to commit to at least four weeks, before deciding to quit.  It seems everything seems to fall in place after the fourth week, and you realize “I can do this.”  We have had 3 Camperforce people quit so far.  One was due to a death in the family, another had a medical condition that made the job too difficult, and the other person said she just wanted to see what Amazon was like, but said it was more work than what she was interested in.  She quit in the 2nd week.

Churchill Downs

As with our last blog on Louisville Slugger, I am going back to 2012 when we visited Churchill Downs, and toured their excellent museum.   Churchill Downs opened in 1875 thanks to the efforts of Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. the grandson of William Clark (of the famous Lewis and Clark explorers).  He leased the land from his uncles, Henry and John Churchill, which is where the name Churchill Downs came from.

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

Twenty years later, the grandstand, with the famous twin spires, was completed.  The finish line is the white post on the left side of the track on the photo below.

grandstand

grandstand

The age of the park shows when you walk around under the grandstands of the general seating area.

betting area under stands

betting area under stands

On the day of our visit, there were many trainers and jockeys out on the track with their horses.  It is easy to distinguish a trainer from a jockey, as jockeys must meet specific weight requirements (no more than 126 pounds, with equipment for the Kentucky Derby).

trainer with horse

trainer with horse

jockey with horse

jockey with horse

finish line in back

finish line in back

Churchill Downs has the Kentucky Derby Walk of Champions, where several past Derby winners are buried.  Usually, when a horse dies, only the head, heart and hooves are buried.  The head represents the will to win, the heart represents courage, and the hooves represent speed.  There are exceptions when the entire horse is buried, usually it is for distinguished champions, such as Secretariat.

past champions burial grounds

past champions burial grounds

The museum has a wonderful display of various memorabilia.  They have a large display on hats and outfits, donated from past patrons.

its all about hats

it’s all about hats

There is a display on the silks that jockeys wear, along with their other equipment they use.  The colors represent the horse and the rider.  The origins of the silks can be traced back to ancient Rome, when the chariot drivers wore specific colors so the crowds could identify them.

jockey silks

jockey silks

jockey accessories

jockey accessories

The museum also has a display honoring the current Kentucky Derby winner, showing them in the winners circle.  Anyone remember the 2012 winner?

2012 Winner

2012 Winner – I’ll Have Another

There is a large display listing the winners (and all the horses) of every Derby going back to 1875.

every winner displayed

every winner displayed

The first winner was Aristides.  The winning horse took home $2,850.00!  Compare that to this years winner, American Pharaoh, which took home $1,240,000.00.

The first Derby winner

The first Derby winner

And what would a visit to the museum be without trying my luck at racing?  They have a fun racing simulator that you can try out.  I had a lot of fun with this!

go, go, go!

go, go, go!

If you are ever in the Louisville area, this is a ‘must do’, in our opinion.  We had a great day visiting Churchill Downs and the Museum.

Quote for the Day:  “Until you go to the Kentucky Derby with your own eyes, behold the Derby, you ain’t never been nowhere and you ain’t never seen nothing.” – Irvin S. Cobb

Back to Work – our summer home

After our unexpected delay in Rapid City, SD to repair Dan’s truck (under warranty yay!), we spent the next two days travelling to our summer job in West Yellowstone, MT. It was a beautiful drive, and we knew our destination was ahead when we hit this sign.

Welcome to Yellowstone

Welcome to Yellowstone

We were pleasantly surprised by the town of West Yellowstone, population 1300, located at the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. For such a small town, it has a lot to see and do in the area, besides the big park. We feel this will be a good summer for exploring.

There are a few RV parks in town, but they charge very high daily fees. As such, work campers are usually tucked away in spots throughout the town that locals rent out to businesses. If you drive around and look in the alleys, you will see RV’s tucked all over town. We are on the edge of town, in a quiet area, with one other RV. It is not a glamorous spot, but it has 50 amp full hook-ups, and will be free, to us, for the entire summer.

our 'spot'

our ‘spot’

Across the street from our spot, is US Forest Service land, which has some nice trails and a place to let Makena play off leash.

place for Makena

place for Makena

And beyond the forest, lies a beautiful view!

view for the summer!

view for the summer!

The day after we arrived, we started our summer jobs. We will be working at Homeroom at Madison Crossings, a cabin decor gift shop. There is one other work camper couple, Tom and Ellen, that recommended the job to us.

Tom and Ellen

Tom and Ellen

The building was the old school in town. Originally built in 1918, it was a 3 room school, and expanded over the years. In 1954, a gymnasium was added on, and that is the location of the gift shop. It remained in use until 1992, when a new school was built. In 1993, an elevator and 2nd floor was added to the gym. The floor, wood beams, and two of the lights are original to the building.

Madison Crossings

Madison Crossings

Homeroom at Madison Crossings

Homeroom at Madison Crossings

view from 2nd floor

view from 2nd floor

Down the hall is the old gym (a “half court gym”) and the stage.  Today it is used for banquets.

half gym & stage

half gym & stage

For those curious about work camping and what it pays, we will be making $9.00/hour, with a 50 cent an hour completion bonus for every hour we work. In addition, we will receive free access to the fitness center in the building, ($40/month value), and our site is free, including electric. We will also receive a discount on any purchases we make in the store as well as the restaurant that is in the building.

We already had visitors! George and Laurie (Owens on the Road) stopped by for a visit on the way to their summer job in Montana. It was great getting caught up with some fellow Amazon workers. We will be working Wednesday through Saturday, eventually working 10 hour days once the tourist season gets in full motion.

George and Laurie

George and Laurie

The store sells many items, including a variety of signs. I took a photo of one of the cute signs, and that will be the Quote for the day:

Quote for the day

Quote for the day

Final thoughts on Amazon

Now that the dust has settled, and our final checks have been received, including the retention bonus, I will have one last post on our fall work camping jobs with Amazon.  If you want to read more posts on our time at Amazon, you can go to our home page and click on tabs for Amazon.

This was an unusual year for us, as we began our 12 weeks at the center in Campbellsville, KY, where we worked in 2013 as well.  Our second year was going well, and we renewed old friendships, and made new ones as well.  Our final 4 weeks were spent at the center in Jeffersonville, IN (SDF-8).  I have previously blogged about how we ended up there.

Overall, we had a good time up in Jeffersonville, IN.  It was very crazy when we started, as they had just hired on 1400 temporary employees over the last 10 days before we started.  Clearly, management had too many people to watch over, and it was a bit entertaining, and frustrating, watching so many people stand around and not work.  But over the next 10 days, management seemed to catch up, and many of the temps were no longer employed.  Amazon does not tolerate people who have no desire to work.

As far as the work, we enjoyed picking apparel, jewelry and watches compared to some of the heavier items we picked in Campbellsville.  SDF-8 is clean, climate-controlled, and well-organized for picking.  Our managers were very pleased with the performance on the Camperforce team.  Several of them commented that our “numbers” (production) were equal to or even better than their veteran full-timers were doing.  They were hoping that our work ethic would rub off on the “younger” employees!  Over and over we heard how they want to have a full Camperforce team next year, because they would not have to hire so many temporary employees.

HOW MUCH CAN YOU MAKE IN A SEASON?

The center in Kentucky (SDF-1) pays $10.00/hour and includes your campground.  If you work 2nd shift, or the weekend day shift, you will receive an additional $0.60/hour as a shift differential.  If you complete your season, you will receive an additional $1.00/hour for every hour that you work.  In addition, you receive time and a half for all hours worked over 40 in a week.   SDF-1 hires about 500 Camperforce, starting at the end of August, going through the middle of November.  We like working 12 weeks, so we start at the end of September.  The pay rate in Indiana was $10.75/hour.  We have not heard what the pay rate will be for this fall.

Our total gross pay for the 12 weeks at KY/IN was $12,983.61.  This amount does not include the additional bonus money that we received for going to Indiana.  Amazon paid us $1,000.00 each (net) for going up to IN.  This was a one-time deal.  We also each made additional money in gift cards for working there.  Indiana was very generous with gift cards.

For working 59 1/2 hours, we each received a $100.00 VISA gift card (we did this for 2 weeks), and we received another $100.00 in gift cards from Target, Subway, Panera Bread, Applebee’s, and Texas Roadhouse for various contests they held for picking.  Another workcamper won over $400.00 in gift cards for these contests.  From talking with other Camperforce, the IN facility was the most generous facility in perks.  We also had three free pizza lunches, cupcakes, fruit, Panera treats, and several Krispy Crème donut days in Indiana.

WILL WE GO BACK? 

Yes, we will go back for our 3rd peak season!  Amazon is not an easy job, but it pays well for a workcamping job, provides a free campsite, has some nice perks (gift cards), and gets us in good shape!  But the best part of the job, is all the wonderful people that we meet.  There is something about making it through a season that brings people together.  Your co-workers become an extended family, and you can make some wonderful friendships if you want.

Amazon is also a great place to work if you are a single, or have a spouse that does not want or need to work at Amazon.  They just want people who are willing to show up and work for the season.  As long as you realize you are just there to work, and not change the culture of how Amazon does things, you will do just fine.

Also, Amazon is a great way to network about other work camping jobs.  All of our other jobs have come from talking with co-workers about jobs.  In addition, the KY location has an annual job fair in December that is well attended by employers.

WHAT LOCATIONS ARE AVAILABLE?

The program will be changing this year, as the centers in Coffeysville, Kansas and Fernley, Nevada have closed (Amazon has opened newer centers near those locations).  According to Amazon’s Camperforce website, they will have programs in place in KY, TN, IN and Haslet, TX (which is a new site).  The site does state to check after January 15, 2015 for more details.

We have not heard any details on what the pay or campgrounds will be for IN.  We would consider going back to KY or IN, depending on the terms.  We will wait to decide on the location until we have more details.

THE BIGGEST LOSER!

And a drum roll please…..the one thing our families have been waiting for! The final weight loss numbers from our 12 week fitness program. For the first time since the 1980’s Dan weighs under 200 lbs. He lost 14 1/2  pounds this year after losing 27 last year, as well as 5% body fat.  I lost 6 pounds (too many dinners out!) but 6% body fat!

If you have any questions regarding Amazon, please let us know.

Quote for the day:  “I used to work at a movie theater and sold hams at Honey Baked Hams during the holidays.  I sold a ton of hams and they offered me a regular job there, which I turned down.  I feel like anything you do, just do it 100% because then that work ethic will bleed through when it’s time to work on your dreams.”  – Tika Sumpter